The incredible pace at which laser scanning technology is evolving requires more than just a solid understanding of the fundamentals. It also demands an in-depth knowledge of the specific abilities of each piece of scanning hardware and its accompanying software. In reality, all this knowledge must be coordinated with our company’s tools, processes and procedures, and our clients’ requirements to ensure that we use all of our resources to their potential and achieve the best possible results.
Because vendor-supplied training typically does not provide the information needed to integrate new equipment with existing hardware and software or to perform specialized work, further training is usually necessary. Product- and process-specific training can be most effective when it is organized and provided in-house--or, as was the case with a recent training session organized by Focus Corp., “in-museum.”
Focus Corp. is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm that provides a wide range of geomatics, oil and gas facilities engineering, transportation, land development/municipal and air quality services throughout Western Canada. The Focus Geomatics division provides a broad range of advanced geomatics services, including land surveying, oil and gas surveying, global positioning technologies, geographic information systems, digital mapping, remote sensing and 3D laser scanning, as well as software and application development, to provide fast, accurate and affordable solutions.
In 2010, the company discovered that it needed a phase-shift scanner to complement the Leica ScanStation 2 time-of-flight scanner it already owned. After renting Z+F scanners and a FARO Photon scanner, the firm developed enough scan-related work to decide that purchasing a phase-shift scanner was a realistic option. The FARO Focus3D laser scanner, which has been honored with several awards, uses high speed laser scanning to quickly produce detailed 3D images of complex environments and geometries. Besides its attractive price point, the scanner was compatible with the firm’s existing equipment and software. Focus Corp. moved forward with its purchase in March 2011.
The team knew that having a new scanner was only the first step. Each of Focus Corp.’s laser scanning professionals has formal training in a geomatics technical program, is well-versed in basic survey and is familiar with 3D modeling developed through experience with CAD and other software. Despite their expertise, team members regularly participate in additional training to ensure that they remain aware of the most recent technological advances and skilled in the techniques required to use them.
This commitment is supported on a corporate level. As Focus Corp. acquires new equipment, it takes advantage of vendor-supplied training and also conducts its own in-house training to learn how to use the new equipment in conjunction with existing hardware and software, and to discover where processes might require modification. The FARO Focus3D was no exception. Focus Corp.’s Kris Kwiatkowski, EIT, explains, “Before we could determine how to fit the new equipment into our workflow, we needed to learn how it worked.”
Although the majority of their work takes place in the oil fields of Western Canada, the team members wanted to find a different location for the training session--one that would be warm and easily accessible, and also might provide some value to the community. They approached the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, which agreed to give them access to a number of large, challenging and unusual subjects, including some distinctive aircraft.
Their training session began with an intensive three-day education component led by FARO, which provided an in-depth review of the new hardware and software and how to use it. Participants learned how to operate the scanner, set up a job and register the scans. Their objective was to understand the new equipment well enough to use it to initiate and deliver a fee-earning job.
Guided by the FARO trainer, the team put the equipment through its paces on a replica of the bamboo and silk Silver Dart aircraft, Canada’s first powered aircraft, and a North American Harvard Trainer aircraft, circa 1940s. The results weren’t always what the participants expected. “We learned really quickly that the workflows we used with our current equipment would not be appropriate for the new FARO system,” Kwiatkowski says.
Subsequent training exercises enabled the Focus Corp. team to integrate the new equipment with their existing equipment to create a single process, understand which hardware and software works best under which conditions, and use the same scanner targets they were using with their existing Leica equipment with the FARO Focus 3D. “Having the same scanner targets will let us have a consistent approach to all projects--regardless of which hardware we use for the job,” says Kwiatkowski.
Focus staff returned to the museum to continue their efforts on another iconic aircraft: a Douglas DC-3 airplane, circa 1943. This aircraft was imported to Canada in 1946 and, after it crashed in 1971, was acquired by Buffalo Airways of the Discovery Channel’s “Ice Pilots” program fame.
Their training process encompassed all of the challenges involved on any jobsite, including the most important factor: the need to pull all the scans together into a single model. After absorbing all available information about the new equipment, staff members were guided through an assessment of the subject’s scanability, including its size and surface qualities, as well as accessibility, lighting and environmental issues.
Using the DC-3 as their target, they explored the FARO equipment’s capabilities and determined how to best use it in conjunction with their various software products to meet the specific needs of their clients and the unique environments in which they typically work. Throughout this process, they found that each of the software products in their arsenal have advantages and disadvantages; the challenge is to choose the right software for the job.
They were inspired to take their scanning equipment and software to new heights by creating a series of 3D data, including images, animated movies and flythroughs. Their scans revealed much about the DC-3, including evidence of its accident. The extent of the damage had been unclear, but the scan information revealed rippled and distorted panels under the nose of the aircraft and along the top of the fuselage. The images confirmed what was suspected about the crash--that the plane see-sawed up and onto its nose and then fell back onto its wheels--and provided important information for future restoration efforts.
The visibility of the scanners and the data they captured created a buzz of excitement among museum volunteers. Focus staff members were pleased to share their information and explore how it could be used to help the museum achieve its objectives of educating the public and preserving its artifacts. The training exercises in the museum opened the door to a partnership that will have Focus Corp. participating in further restoration efforts, and the resulting images used to enhance the museum exhibits. “3D scanning is a fantastic way for the museum to improve how artifacts are restored, preserved and presented,” says the museum’s curator, Brenda Blair, “and we’re delighted to have access to it.”
In the process of learning how to use the new equipment and combine it with existing processes, Focus staff were able to make mistakes that would have proven costly if made on a job, when the time required to resolve the problems would not have been available. By taking the time to get to know their equipment and understand its place within their collection of hardware and software, Focus staff members learned the skills they needed to work effectively, efficiently and confidently onsite, so their first job with the new FARO equipment would run smoothly and produce excellent results.
As professional service providers, we are responsible for ensuring that we know our science, our equipment, our in-house procedures and end-products. Only by maintaining our training and demonstrating our skills can we elevate the credibility of our profession and meet our clients’ diverse needs.
The period following the acquisition of new equipment provides the ideal time and opportunity to enhance staff skills and maximize the investment. As a follow-up to vendor-supplied training, in-house training provides staff members with the specific information they need to use the new equipment effectively and efficiently from the very first job and provide each client with the best possible end product. As a side benefit, it also provides a perfect opportunity to explore interesting subject matter, enjoy some time away from the “office” as a team and use our skills to give back to our communities.
For more information about Focus Corp., visit www.focus.ca. For more information about the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, visit www.asmac.ab.ca. For more information about the FARO Focus3D laser scanner, visit www.faro.com.
In-House Training TipsWhile each company’s circumstances will be unique based on equipment, processes and job requirements, it may be helpful to consider these tips when organizing in-house training:
• Schedule the in-house training soon after the vendor-specific training to capitalize on the new information, improve retention and ensure that your processes are tailored as quickly as possible.
• Schedule training during a slow period, when staff can be away from the field for a solid block of time.
• Train in a convenient location using interesting and challenging subjects as your targets.
• Take the training offsite, away from the office and day-to-day distractions.
• Find something new and challenging to scan. Get your staff out of their current comfort zone. Avoid doing what you normally do and scanning what you normally scan.
• Find a scanning target that is big enough to have height, depth and various surface types.
• Conduct both interior and exterior scans and, if possible, combine them. Scanning the outside of a subject from the inside and scanning the inside of a subject from the outside have different challenges.
• Be aware that one combination of software and hardware will likely work differently than another combination.
• Work with a nonprofit organization and share the results to maximize your impact.
Aviation ArtifactsMany of the aircraft at the Aero Space Museum of Calgary in Alberta came from a private collection that had been part of the Air Museum of Calgary, which was founded in 1960. That museum was disbanded in 1971, and its aircraft and assets were turned over to the City of Calgary for safekeeping and display. In 1975, the Aero Space Museum of Calgary was registered as a nonprofit charitable organization and assumed the care and upkeep of these artifacts, which include some distinctive military aircraft from World War I and World War II, as well as some other nonservice aircraft. Since 1985, the collection has been displayed at a beautifully renovated hangar on Calgary Airport Authority lands, only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Calgary city center.
The hangar, most recently known as the Bullock Helicopters Hanger, is one of only three buildings at the Calgary Airport that predates the second world war. It was built in 1941 to support the British Commonwealth Air Training Program in Calgary. Now, the museum houses approximately 20 aircraft, including one that is certified as an article of Canadian cultural property because of its outstanding significance and national importance, one of only seventeen surviving Lancaster bombers, and many other aviation-related artifacts, including a large collection of engines and propellers.